Records aren’t flawless, but nuclear plants near Iowa likely safe

Duane Arnold Energy Center - in Palo, Iowa - has received notices about four violations in the past five years, including two from incidents dating back to 2003 and 2004.

Are Iowa’s nearby nuclear power plants safe? For the most part, yes.

Though the reactors in Iowa and those near our border have occasionally violated federal regulations, redundant safety systems have generally kept them operating safely and none have received fines in the past five years, according to a Des Moines Register study.

Except for one key violation in Nebraska, violations have mostly been minor – enough to worry nuclear skeptics yet still maintain the steadfast support of proponents. 

The Register reports:

Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun Station, 19 miles north of Omaha, is one of three plants in the United States facing the highest level of regulatory scrutiny. That’s because the plant’s safety systems were found last year to be in danger of flooding, records show.

Inspectors found the plant, located on the Missouri River, didn’t have enough sand to fill bags that operators planned to place on a flood wall to protect buildings and equipment.

There’s an adequate stockpile of sand in place now, but the plant will continue to be inspected frequently because the violation was considered a “substantial” safety risk.

Other plants in or near Iowa have been cited for less serious problems, records show. They include:

  • NextEra Energy’s Duane Arnold Energy Center near Palo. Iowa’s only nuclear plant has received four notices of violation in the past five years, including two stemming from incidents dating back to 2003 and 2004.
  • Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Station near Brownville. The plant located along the Missouri River about 15 miles from the Iowa border had three violations.
  • Exelon Corp.’s Quad Cities plant at Cordova, Ill. The plant located across the Mississippi River from Davenport has been cited once in the past five years.

But regardless of safety levels at plants, some environmentalists worry about the nation’s lack of infrastructure for nuclear waste disposal, the energy consuming process of mining uranium to power the plants and the possibility that a shift to nuclear energy will sap momentum from Iowa’s other renewable energy efforts – like its booming wind industry.

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